NBA writes IGP over ‘threats’ to judiciary’s independence
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has decried what it called threats to the administration of justice and independence of the judiciary through intimidation and harassment.
In a letter to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris, the association urged him to urgently investigate the May 11 invasion of the Rivers State High Court to identify the perpetrators, no matter how highly placed, and institute appropriate criminal proceedings against them.
NBA urged the IGP to also probe the security breach at the Court of Appeal Quarters in Calabar, Cross River State capital, and take appropriate disciplinary action against the officers involved.
Copies of the May 16 letter, signed by the NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), were sent to Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, Court of Appeal President Zainab Bulkachuwa, Attorney-General of the Federation Abubabar Malami (SAN), Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, Chief Judge of Rivers State, Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade, and the Chief Judge of Cross River State.
The association urged the IGP to issue appropriate directions to police formations on access to suspects or detainees and the need to accord due respect to lawyers who visit stations to carry out their professional duties.
“These steps will send appropriate messages not only to lawyers and judicial officers, but indeed to all law-abiding citizens and reinforce confidence in the country’s law enforcement agencies and the legal system. Nigeria cannot afford to condone or tolerate such brazen affronts on our courts and the legal profession,” NBA said.
Mahmoud vowed to ensure that lawyers also conducted themselves well.
“I want to assure the IGP that, on our part, the NBA will continue to educate and enlighten our members on the need to maintain proper decorum and conduct whenever our members visit police stations across the country. The association expects no less from its members,” he said.
Mahmoud said he was compelled by recent developments to write the IGP to express “deep concern over events that threaten the rule of law and administration of justice in the country”.
NBA said on May 11, the High Court of Rivers State in Port Harcourt was invaded and some items destroyed.
It said reports on the incident suggested that the invasion was masterminded by politicians and executed by political thugs acting on behalf of warring factions of a registered political party.
The invasion, NBA said, is believed to be an attempt to prevent the court from carrying out its constitutional duty.
Besides, Mahmoud said there had been several acts of lawyers’ harassment by officers in Onitsha, Ikeja, Abuja, among others.
“I need not remind the IGP that Nigerian lawyers form an integral part of the stakeholders in the administration of justice and must retain the ability to carry out their duties to their clients and have unhindered access to persons accused of any criminal offence or in the custody of the police anywhere in the country.
“An independent bar is, therefore, a sacred pillar of any democratic society,” Mahmoud said.
NBA said it received a report on May 8 from its Calabar Branch concerning a quarrel involving a police officer attached to a consulate and the private security personnel attached to the official residential quarters of Court of Appeal Justices.
The incident reportedly escalated into assault and unlawful arrest of the private security personnel and domestic workers in the Justices’quarters on the alleged instructions of the Divisional Police Officer of the State Housing Police Station, Calabar.
“I understand a report of this incident was lodged with the Commissioner of Police for Cross River State and Assistant Inspector-General of Police (Zone 6).
“The protection of our courts and judges, as well as the provision of unhindered access by lawyers to persons in need of legal representation without intimidation, threats or harassment are fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
“In addition, Nigeria is a signatory and party to several United Nations Conventions and other international instruments which impose a duty on the country to protect our courts, judicial officers, lawyers and court personnel,” NBA added.
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